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Enrico Rava Quartet, Gianluca Petrella, 'Wild Dance,' ECM Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Sep 18, 2015 04:53 PM EDT

The Wild Dance of Italy’s top trumpeter Enrico Rava has him crazily post-bopping with trombone man, Gianluca Petrella. Whether they’re playing in unison, harmony or dialogue, this frontline tandem is backed by the piano-less quartet of acoustic bassist Gabriele Evangelista, drummer Enrico Morello (one of Italy's best drummers) and—replacing the piano—guitarist Francesco Diodati. The mix these five Italians make is made unique by the switch of piano for guitar. This opens up “delicate clouds of sounds,” according to Rava, who adds, “I often prefer to hear a guitarist playing behind a soloist—not the least because guitarists can’t play chords with 10 fingers.” Yeah, more space: an airy, light ambiance. (Rava did the same thing in the 1970s with guitarist John Abercrombie on the albums The Plot and The Pilgrim and the Stars.)

The 14 tracks, all produced by ECM visionary Manfred Eicher, range in time from 2:53 (the Ornette Coleman-inspired “Happy Shades”) to 8:04 (the closing group improvisation “Frogs”). Most were done in one take. Unlike Rava’s internationally-acclaimed quintet CDs (2003’s Easy Living, 2005’s The Words & The Days and 2011’s Tribe), Wild Dance seems effortlessly tossed off like an old-time swing session. Rava admits it was one of his “easiest” records to make.

Born in 1939, Rava, a teenaged trombonist, heard Miles Davis in 1957 and took up the trumpet. Five years later in ’62, he was blowing long, loud and strong with Gato Barbieri in a frenzied genre-busting band. Three years after that, in ’65, he joined Steve Lacey and his avant-garde tendencies came to the fore. Working with Cecil Taylor brought him even further into outer space. It wasn’t until he hooked up with the ‘bone-packin’ Roswell Rudd that he started his lifelong love affair with the sound of intertwining trumpet/trombone, a sound that certainly seems to have held him—and us—in sway to this day.

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TagsEnrico Rava, Gianluca Petrella, Manfred Eicher, REVIEW